30 December 2009

The most wonderful time of the year.

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I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. Mine was jam packed with excitement and festivities! We got things kicked off this year by having our first annual 'cousins' dinner on Wednesday evening, on the Eve of Christmas Eve, if you will. When I found out Eva was coming to town, I thought is would be fun to get as many of the Shifferli cousins together for dinner at my house. The response was great, and it turned out better than I envisioned. Nedra, Eva, Angela, Katie, Theresa, and Tim were the cousins who were able to make it.

Eva and I prepared the meal for the evening; the menu included lasagna, garlic knots, salad (prepared by Eva), and cheesecake with a berry compote for dessert (prepared by Angela). Eva and I made the lasagna noodles from scratch, as well as the ricotta cheese. We also used some homemade marinara from my tomatoes that I saved. The meal was wonderful and the company even better. We even watched Mary Ann's choir on television, so it was almost like she was with us. I wish I had pictures, but I was kind of exhausted by all the cooking and I just wanted to sit back and enjoy the evening.

The following day was Christmas Eve and we had a get-together at my mom's house in the evening. Aunt Sue and Uncle Steve were in town and we were lucky enough to celebrate Aunt Sue's birthday with her. Theresa arrived in a pink Santa hat with gifts for the kids. Ari loves his little wooden car, by the way.

Laughter was in the air.

Memories were made.

A perfect lead in for the Christmas festivities to follow.

17 December 2009

Brown Sugar

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I learned a handy culinary trick during the recent "Good Eats" episode, Pantry Raid X: Dark Side of the Cane. Alton Brown taught me how to make my own brown sugar. He explained that, anymore, brown sugar is just refined white sugar with molasses added to it; and if you have white sugar and molasses in your pantry, you can make your own brown sugar. You can view the recipe here.

I had some brown sugar on hand when I watched the episode, so I didn't try making my own right away. When I ran out of the store bought kind, I was anxious to make my own. Preferring not to use my food processor to make it, for fear of Valerie chastising me for having to clean it, I just put some sugar in a bowl, added some molasses and started mixing.

I just eyeballed how much molasses to add, and I used my fingers to mix it after starting with a fork. It was nice because I was able to adjust how dark I wanted the sugar. My hands got pretty messy in the process, but it was well worth it. Curious on how it tasted by itself, I gave it a try. It was the best brown sugar, I have ever tasted! Plus, it was nice and moist and not a bit lumpy.

The recipes I have used the brown sugar in have also turned out extraordinarily well. I see no reason that I will ever have to purchase brown sugar again. It is also nice because I am able to adjust how much I make at one time. Since I don't use brown sugar all that often, I don't have to worry about it drying out because I can make it in small batches.

If you don't have any molasses on hand, go get some. For this application alone, it is well worth it. For all who may be baking Christmas cookies in the coming days, I would highly recommend trying this application for making brown sugar, if the recipe calls for it, of course. Just a little piece of holiday cooking advice from your friend here at latent chestnut.

14 December 2009

Happy belated anniversary to me!

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I'm not really trying to draw attention to myself or anything, but I just realized my blog was one year old on December 10. I didn't really have any expectations when I started posting my thoughts and musings a year ago, I was just having so much fun with my Ditalini Press posts, I wanted to do more. So, I came up with latent chestnut, and the rest is history.

I think I've done a fairly good job representing myself here. I don't think I've held back showing who I really am and what my interests are. For those of you who read my blog regularly, I'm sure you've come to realize how big of an R.E.M. and Alton Brown/cooking fan I am. Those are probably the two things I post about the most. Heck, even latent chestnut is a thinly veiled R.E.M. reference. Very thin, I might add, but I had R.E.M. in mind when I came up with the name.

I guess if there is one thing I have held back on, it would be how big of an impact the television show 'LOST' has had on me. I just don't really think I am educated enough to discuss that show here. But I do enjoy it, and I am surprised how much I have learned from the show in terms of science and different theories regarding time travel and whatnot. That show has been one heck of a great ride.

I do have a lot of interests, from Mythbusters, Nintendo, Calvin and Hobbes, quilting, as well as the occasional random observation and quandary. I thought about giving the blog more of a focus, to maybe attract more of a following, but I didn't want to make any compromises. I like how I've done things so far, and don't plan on making any changes. I just hope I don't run out of ideas, though, I will admit working in Lafayette has had kind of a negative impact on my creativity and writing, but it's getting better.

I have to say the high point of the year has to be my R.E.M. quilt post, and remhq posting a link to my blog on their website. I don't think it can get much better than that, and that's alright with me. It was also a lot of fun doing a monthly tomato update and being able to go back and see the changes the garden went through. From planting the seeds to picking the fruit, it was all here. I'll be sure to do that next year, too.

All in all, it was a wonderful first year in the world of blogging. A lot better than I expected actually. I want to say thank you to everyone who reads my posts, your feedback is really what keeps me going (the positive feedback, at least). I just hope that this next year on latent chestnut will be at least half as good as the first.

12 December 2009


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It's no secret that I am a fan of pasta; and I seem to have passed my love of it to my son. When I was young, my grandparents always had freshly grated Parmesan cheese for us to add to our pasta. For whatever reason, I always passed on adding it; I just preferred my pasta without it. I remember everyone else piling on the grated cheese by the spoonful while I was content to eat mine plain. It wasn't until years later that I would appreciate the cheese and savor every tasty bite.

As I've mentioned before, pasta with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano and olive oil might just be my favorite thing to eat. Ari is following right along in my footsteps, though I think he may like the Parmigiano-Reggiano better than the pasta itself, as evidenced by the chunk he bit off the wedge in the above picture.

Whenever we have pasta, we have to watch him to make sure he doesn't eat all the cheese. We usually keep the cheese on the table with a grater, but have had to leave it in the kitchen as of late because the boy just can't get enough. I guess there are worse foods he could be hooked on, but that cheese is so pricey, we like to use it in moderation. But hey, at least he has good taste.

08 December 2009


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ABC Family was broadcasting a two hour block of Pixar shorts the other day, and I decided to save it to our DVR because I thought Ari and Emilie would like watching them. What caught my eye initially was the "Cars Toon" shorts starring Mater and Lightning. I thought Ari would be thrilled with some new Cars material to feast his eyes on. What I didn't know was that there would be so many other gems hidden within those two hours of television. I was quite taken with "Boundin'", both for the animation style and the story that was told. I like it so much, I thought it would be a nice touch here on ol' latent chestnut for those of you who may not have already seen it. Enjoy!

04 December 2009

We're gonna need a bigger gate...

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Five years ago, Valerie and I become the proud parents of a cute little fur-ball we named Walter. At the time, we thought it would be a good idea to put in a fence so that he could go outside to run and frolic. There was no good way to connect the fence to our house, so we decided to just fence in the grassy area of the back yard; I liked to call our yard the "box".

As Walter got older, it became apparent that he was no lover of the outdoors. We would take him out to the yard and he would just stand at the gate and bark, even if we were right on the other side. The only way he was content in the yard is if we were in the fence with him. He would also sit at the gate and bark if he was alone outside, and even if he had some other dog friends over to play. He did not like to be inside that fence without any other humans. Go figure.

So, we got him a tie-out so he could spend time outside with us outside the fence. The problem then, was the fence. If he was on his tie-out, he couldn't really get into the yard because of the fence. We didn't want to take the fence down since it was so new, and it kept the kids in the yard and out of the alley, so we were content to leave things the way they were.

Because of his lack of access to the yard when he was outside alone, Walter got into the unfortunate habit of relieving himself on the driveway or patio. Too much information, I know, but it lead to us making a decision about the fence. We couldn't continue to let him display that behavior, but we also knew he really had nowhere else to go. We could take him out to the yard every time we let him out, but that would just lead to a barking fit. We realized we only really had one solution to our ongoing problem.

What we ended up doing was taking down the section of fence that was between the yard and the house. Ari and I headed outside, tools and shovels in hand, and disassembled the fence. It was a pretty quick process, really, aside from digging those posts out of the ground. Removing that part of the fence enabled Walter more access to the grass and still kept the kids at bay in the yard. We are retraining Walter to relieve himself in the grass and all things are going well so far.

I am really happy with the way the backyard looks now, too. Removing that piece of fence really opened things up and makes the area look bigger. We are going to have to find another place for our garden this spring, but that's really no problem at all. We are also going to get Walter a longer tie-out so he can go further into the grass. I just love stories with happy endings.


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